February 1, 2010

It Speaks Volumes: McNally Jackson Books’ New Café By Front Studio

Never underestimate the networking potential of a book club. After joining one that often meets at New York’s McNally Jackson Books, Yen Ha and Michi Yanagishita of Front Studio struck up a friendship with owner Sarah McNally. When the time came to overhaul the store’s café—its existing gray walls and plastic-laminate surfaces being more suited to a corporate cafeteria—McNally asked her new friends to plot out a 550-square-foot space “where every moment evokes a visceral connection to reading,” Ha explains.

Paperbacks dangle precipitously from the center of the ceiling on randomly arranged steel rods, interspersed with incandescent bulbs hung from black wires. Above the bar, four additional steel rods pierce multiple editions of a single title before terminating with bare bulbs. The rear wall—which appears to be lined with rippling rows of open volumes but is actually covered in trompe l’oeil vinyl—also supports six walnut tablets. With the help of leather straps, each tablet unfolds, just like the cover of a book, to become a table for a single reader.

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